[ Diretor: Mário Frota [ Coordenador Editorial: José Carlos Fernandes Pereira [ Fundado em 30-11-1999 [ Edição III [ Ano XII

terça-feira, 21 de novembro de 2017

Microplastics, macro problems

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.com PLC.

Plastic rope and pieces of nets are by weight the most common litter type along the Norwegian coastline. Over time even the most sturdy rope breaks down into microplastic fibres that spread.
[Bo Eide / Flickr]

Jocelyn Blériot is head of Public Affairs of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Offensive pictures of plastic pollution have made the headlines in an unprecedented way over the course of 2017, and this year’s edition of the Our Ocean conference, hosted by the European Commission, has shown how high the topic was on the priority list.

Bolstered at global level by the United Nation’s Clean Seas campaign, the fight against marine litter in general and ocean plastic in particular is on, and snapshots of discarded bottles on beaches are now being filed under “unacceptable” in our collective portfolio of mental images.

That’s for the visible part of the problem – the one that can be partly tackled through clean-up operations, which are a short-term necessity. But if we’re serious about finding a long-term solution through system change and upstream considerations, revealing the invisible impact of the current model of plastics production and use is imperative.

What breaks down, seemingly disappears but never goes away?

Oxo-degradable plastics – conventional polymers to which chemicals are added to accelerate the oxidation and fragmentation of the material – are used for packaging, including carrier bags. They are often marketed as a solution to plastic pollution, with claims that such plastics degrade into harmless residues within a period ranging from a few months to several years.

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